Breaking Up

Dear Elana,

I've been with my partner for a few years and she's great. We're compatible, we get along, we're great friends; I love her dearly and don't want to hurt her. The problem is that I'm not really sure I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I find myself deeply attracted to other women and I long for the freedom of being single again. I've been on the fence for awhile, but my partner wants us to get married. I don't think I want that right now, but I don't know how to break the news to her. How do I say goodbye?


Scared About Departing

Dear SAD,

Breakups are painful, and I commend you for wanting to break the news respectfully. Before you act, you need to gain clarity about your decision. You say that you are “not really sure” that you want to stay with her. You also write that you “love her dearly” and that you are “compatible” and “great friends.” I wonder what is inspiring your desire for freedom.

You say that you don’t know if you want marriage “right now,” which suggests that you imagine being married one day. What is preventing you from feeling ready at this moment?

Carl Jung conceptualized The Shadow, which is comprised of the dark parts of yourself that you cannot accept. Could it be that your desire to be sexual with other women is incongruent with your ideal of a good husband? If so, I would encourage you to separate desire from action. It is normal to find other people attractive even after signing a marriage license, and it is normal to long for freedom at times. You have a choice about whether or not to act on these desires.

If your longing for freedom overrides your desire for companionship, then you are right to end the relationship. Speak with her in person, be direct and kind. Tell her that you love her, but that you want to be single at this point. Be prepared to discuss practical issues regarding the dissolution of your shared life, including rent if you’re living together, custody of pets, and expectations for communicating with mutual friends. If she feels angry or hurt, listen to her supportively and answer any questions that she asks to help her gain closure.